FINAL COUNTDOWN: Aurora-region Democrats in legislative races widen fundraising leads

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AURORA | With less than 36 hours until voting centers close, Aurora-area Democrats gunning for the state Legislature widened fundraising leads against their Republican and Libertarian opponents, with many of those candidates raising little or no funds.

Campaign finance disclosures filed with the Secretary of State’s office show hefty fundraising leads for Democrats in state House and Senate districts considered safely “blue,” but also in a key battleground district. In the Aurora region, Democratic incumbents and challengers clocked major leads from House District 30 in north Aurora to Centennial’s Senate District 27. That’s a hotly contested race considered critical for Republicans aiming to retake the state Senate — and one saturated with so-called “dark money.” 

There, Republican candidate Suzanne Staiert is running to replace outgoing Republican Senator Jack Tate against Democratic opponent Chris Kolker.

Staiert, a former deputy secretary of state, had raised almost $83,000 for her re-election bid as of Monday morning. She’s so far spent about $78,000 in a heavily-advertised campaign. Major contributors include the action wing of Americans for Prosperity, the political network founded by industrial magnates David and Charles Koch. 

But Kolker has raised more than $182,000 and spent almost $150,000 in an effort to snag the seat. Kolker is a former teacher and a certified financial planner. 

His campaign has been boosted by the Colorado Democratic Party — which doled out $6,500 to Kolker’s campaign in late October — and dark money groups supporting liberal candidates including Leading Colorado Forward. 

In reliably blue local districts, Democratic candidates have widened fundraising leads. Janet Buckner, a state representative running to represent Aurora’s Senate District 28, raked in more than $75,000 as of Monday morning. Her opponent, Republican retired neurosurgeon Karl Stecher, hadn’t reported raising a single dollar.

Last week, Buckner reported raising $1,000 in a major contributor report from the Washington, D.C.-based political action wing of the United Food and Commercial Workers union.  

In their bids for state House races, area Democratic candidates vastly out-raised Republicans. 

In House District 30, which includes north Aurora and a large swath of unincorporated Adams County, incumbent Democratic Representative Dafna Michaelson-Jenet has raised almost $100,000 more than Republican opponent Kerrie Gutierrez. 

Tom Sullivan, a Democrat running to hold his seat in Arapahoe County’s House District 37, raised about $110,000 more than Republican Caroline Cornell. Sullivan unseated former Republican Representative Cole Wist in 2018 by eight points. 

Many local Republican and Libertarian candidates raised and spent little or no money at all toward their election bids in 2020.

Republican Dustin Bishop, challenging incumbent Democratic Representative Mike Weissman in Aurora’s House District 36, hasn’t reported raising any money. 

Richard Bassett, a GOP candidate for House District 40, reported raising $300. That’s compared to Democratic challenger Naqeutta Ricks’ $74,000. 

In that race, Libertarian Robert Harrison hasn’t reported raising any money. Neither had Libertarian Kevin Gulbranson, running in vast House District 56 east of Aurora, or Marc Solomon, Libertarian candidate for Senate District 26.